The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Economic growth but flat energy consumption

1st law of thermo.pngThis seems to strain the first law of thermodynamics.


According to this article in IEEE spectrum, the US economy has grown 8% since 2007 but the annualized electricity demand has been flat.


“The third annual Sustainable Energy in America fact book from Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that electricity demand growth, which has slowed since 1990, has come to a grinding halt.”

For more information, visit the Factbook portal on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy website.


Although there is quite a bit of data about what made this happen, energy efficiency through computing had a role to play, through:

  • Smarter buildings
  • Smarter metering
  • And increased efficiency through automation

Most of these efforts have been done in relatively isolation, when we move into a more holistic approach to IoT it will likely fuel even greater efficiencies.

FIRST Robotics Competition game for 2015 announced

Saturday was the kickoff for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for 2015. I’ve participated for the last 7 years, locating judges for the North Texas competition. This year, the Dallas FRC event will take place on February 25th – 28th at the Irving convention center. If you’re in town – be there. It’s a free and an exciting show.


FRC allows students to start from a standard kit of parts and some state of the art tools, received at the kickoff, and build a robot that attempts to meet specified objectives. At the end of the build period, the robots are packed up and the students do not see them again until the competition.


This video is an overview of this year’s challenge – Recycle Rush



I’ve found FRC to be an exciting and enlightening experience for the students and the volunteers. Every year I am surprised at the ingenuity and commitment demonstrated by those participating.


The main competition is judged by numerous factors beyond how the robots perform on the field, like:

  • Coopertition (helping others that you are competing against)
  • Project planning
  • Quality/safety
  • Technical achievement
  • Business plan and marketing


The on field performance is not judged, since it has its own rules… Referees determine the winners of that portion of the competition.


The goal of FIRST is to encourage the understanding and passion around STEM. It has a proven track record of results that is hard to argue with.


You can see some video from previous year’s Dallas FIRST competition, if you are interested.

Research using glass for 3D printing

3Dglass.pngHP labs researchers have been doing some interesting work working Glass as a medium for 3D printing. Although not quite the same as having a print and your done method like plastic, it does have a number of advantages. The article has some good examples of the variables and capabilities of the current research.


The article also included a good, short summary of why 3D printing is of such interest:

“Traditional assembly line manufacturing is speculative, costly and environmentally unsustainable. It is speculative because it commits substantial resources-energy, materials, shipping, handling, stocking and displaying-without a guaranteed sale. It is costly because each of these resources-material, process, people and place-involves expense not encountered when a product is manufactured at the time of sale. It is environmentally unsustainable because, no matter how much recycling is done, not using the resources unless actually needed is always a better path. Three-dimensional printing is currently of great commercial interest as it can be employed to manufacture parts on-demand economically and without the significant cost & environmental downsides, i.e. inventory and waste, associated with traditional manufacturing processes."

HP India deploying “computer-lab-in-a-box”

lab-in-box.jpgHaving installed its fourth 'Lab-in-Box' (a self-sustainable computer lab in a shipping container) at Ahmedabad, India, Hewlett-Packard (HP) India is now in talks with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for installing more education focused labs.


Each HP Lab-in-Box comprises a shipping container that has 15 HP multi-seat thin client workstations, a multifunctional printer, wireless connectivity, electricity, furniture, fans and air conditioning. This approach allows multiple users (students in many cases) to be connected to one machine, which maximizes space and resource utilization while reducing cost and complexity. The same techniques that allow for containerized data centers have other applications as well.


While HP India is in talks with central and state governments for installing these labs across public schools in India, it has received demands from other countries as well. "Even Indonesia, Afghanistan and other African countries have also been demanding this lab but we are waiting for the pilot projects to get stabilized," said Jaijit Bhattacharya director, Government Affairs, HP India.


inside lab-in-box.jpgThe HP labs organization in India has been researching ways to impact education through computing. We’ll likely see a number of products and approaches in the coming years that continue this wave forward.


Even though there has been a great deal of talk about the Kahn Academy and various on-line efforts to shift how education is performed, some foundational infrastructure is still required.

Will solar energy shine in 2012?

A Bloomberg article recently discussed the decline in the price of photovoltaic panels in 2011. The article discusses the fact that “The spot price of solar panels has fallen 47 percent this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while crude oil prices have gained 8 percent in New York.”


You may think this means there may be a significant burst in solar installation in 2012, but these lower costs may not be sustainable though, since the actual costs involved in the production of solar cells have not declined and is more of a side effect of overproduction. The costs of installing solar cells has declined significantly as better techniques are being used today. The DIY market is responding to the reduction is solar panel costs as well.


It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Tags: energy| Finance| Green
Labels: energy| Finance| Green
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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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